Health workers during a mock drill at the Naga hospital in Kohima on Thursday

Kohima: The Naga Hospital Authority Kohima (NHAK) the only district hospital in the state capital conducted a COVID-19 preparedness mock drill. The demonstration was on handling patients and dispatching coffins of Coronavirus or COVID-19 victims. This hospital is second in line after the facility at Chedema.

ICU beds being prepared at the NHAK COVID-19 hospital in Kohima

This hospital is equipped with 67 beds (44 for male and 23 for female), 20 ICU stations and 9 ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients. For the safety of the health workers, authorities claim that they have 2055 of PPEs, 1100 of N95 masks, 2600 of FFPA3, 12300 pieces of triple-layer masks, 10 infrared thermometer, 11700 non-sterile gloves, 1000 pairs of sterile gloves, 1180 bottles of hand sanitizers, 500 litres of sodium hypochlorite, 20 litres Cidex, 10 I V stands, 85 pillows, 85 blankets, 270 bedsheets and 100 hand towels.

There have been reports that the safety equipment received by health workers are substandard. Several complaints have been received regarding the quality of PPE suits, face masks etc. Dr Sendimeren Aonok, public information officer (PIO), defended the government saying that the hospital is getting more equipped with all necessary systems are in place. He added that the government will not put health workers in danger.

Videos and photos of mouldy face masks and poor-quality PPE dating back to 2007 on social media have people of Nagaland in panic. The information officer admitted that masks and protective gear bought in 2007 to deal with the H1N1 outbreak had been supplied to the hospital but this was only a stop-gap arrangement. “There was a delay in the delivery of medical consignments from the central government, the available stocks were also utilized for training the health workers, including basic trainings on donning and doffing PPE,” said Dr Aonok.

A corner of the NHAK store filled with equipment

Currently, the hospital has no COVID-19 patients hence the decade-old protective gear is being used to test response during mock drills. The government insists that these can still be used to treat patients the sterile and non-sterile environment to the dismay of health workers. The public information officer is even recommending using several layers of non-standard PPEs to treat severe infections if the need arises.

The hospital is currently hoarding all good quality equipment to be used only when a COVID-19 positive case is reported. There is a shortage of PPEs worldwide, the health authorities want to avoid the misuse of the good-quality ones during training.

Dr G Thong showing the health workers recreation lounge within the hospital

NHAK action plan

On Saturday, few doctors took media persons around the hospital to show how prepared they are to handle COVID-19 cases. The NHAK in Kohima will be put on “red alert” when 50% of the beds at Chedema are filled. They will however only admit patients when the first hospital reached optimum capacity.

A screen grab of the virtual presentation of the floor plan of the NHAK COVID-19 hospital

At this hospital there are two VIP cabins to accommodate the heads of state, should the dire need arise. Sharing its floor plan and work distribution among the staff, Dr Thong said that training is held regularly to ensure that all staff are ready.

Each health worker will be deployed at this hospital for 7 days and will be in residency. After their 7 day assignment, they will be quarantined at a government facility for 14 days. Following this cycle as per protocol health workers from the periphery—CHCs and PHC—most of whom are now trained, and health workers from the private hospitals will also be put on duty. He then added that on further exhaustion of the workforce, the police and army medical teams will be deployed.

Around the apprehension of handling remains of COVID-19 victims, he said that although viruses may live for up to 14 hours, all dead bodies will be handled as per government authorised protocol. The coffins will also be sterilized both inside and outside, before it is handed to the family members. In case of any situation where the family of any patient refuses to claim the body, he said that the administration has identified certain areas for burial.

ICU nurses at the NHAK COVID-19 hospital in Kohima on Thursday

While health workers are actively engaged in the fight against COVID-19, he expressed his discontentment around the stigma against healthcare workers, even at a time when the frontline workers are yet to treat any positive patients in the state.

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